Wakiso District land office has brought untold suffering to Ugandans who want to own land in the most populous district in Buganda region. Once frustrated the genuine people also start bribing officials to get what they want.
Satia Mwangusyo , the Principal Land Management Officer told the Land Probe Commission led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire that Wakiso land Office is a market place without any organisation in the way it operated.
Mwangusyo said the land officials in Wakiso district were untouchables and do everything in disregard of the law.
Head of State House Anti -Corruption Department Lt Col Edith Nakalema with her team raided Wakiso district headquarters after getting many complaints.
Six land officials have so far been handcuffed and detained at Wakiso District offices. While others are on the run leaving behind their mobile phones.
When Justice Bamugemereire visited Wakiso in 2017 she knocked on an office door several times but there was no response. Francis Banumba, a senior registration officer was already on his desk. On entering Banumba’s office, the commissioners were stunned to find some of the land titles, including both the newly-processed and very old titles scattered on the office floor.
There was no visible filing cabinet in the office. Banumba complained that his office, just like that of other offices under Wakiso Land zone isn’t well-facilitated. He said the office was also faced with huge cases of title forgeries.
He pulled a collection of ‘forged’ land titles from his drawer, some of them with his ‘forged’ signature. Banumba explained that police haven’t helped much to apprehend the fraudsters. From Banumba’s office, the commissioners returned to Mukaga’s office at around 10:50am but he still wasn’t there.
When the commissioners finally accessed the office, they found several complaint letters on his desk. One, from a law firm belonging to the former Lands minister Omara Atubo complaining on behalf of a client, whose land in Bukasa was erroneously transferred to another person.
Bamugemereire wasn’t amused that the officer wasn’t at his desk when they arrived.
“In my mind when I said I want to see the Lands office, I expected to find the [person in charge] seated. We did not give warning by the way. We just walked in without warning. We had sent our officers early in the morning and they had been on phone [communicating]…We were aware that we were not going to find certain officers… But we are here to check how things are working. What am trying to say is that we are on the ground; we’re picking the issues as they come up. We want to gather as much information as possible but we found an empty chair”, she said.
After three minutes in an office, whose owner was said to be in the Lands office in Kampala, the Commission marched to the ICT section. Bamugemereire knocked at the door expecting to take the occupants by surprise but Banumba came in first and placed his fingers on the electronic door access system to usher in the commissioner.
It was around 11:03am. Two ICT officers, Henry Mugume and Patience Ahumuza were already at work. The two are in-charge of verifying expiring leases among others. Joyce Habasa, a commissioner and surveyor by profession, asked the duo several questions. Mukaga finally arrived to join the meeting in the ICT section.
The World Bank-funded land title computerization project has been criticized by some of the witnesses that have appeared before the Commission of Inquiry. After about fifteen minutes at the ICT section, Bamugemereire and her team decide to return to the customer care section located down stairs where they found a seemingly dissatisfied, Rose Namazi. She claimed to have spent close to six months trying to secure her land title from possible fraud.
Namazi, dressed in a green dotted busuti (gomesi) was seated at the reception holding copies of her land titles. She was planning to walk out of the office when Bamugemereire and her team arrived.
The 75-year old woman had gone to seek information on whether she should surrender her land title to the heir. According to Namazi, the heir had asked her to surrender the land title to him claiming that his five-acre piece of land was wrongfully annexed to hers.
Namazi said she was uncomfortable to surrender the title fearing that her land might be grabbed. Andrew Mwanje, a customer care officer at the office had advised the old lady to seek services of a lawyer or a surveyor.
Mukaga promised to personally follow up Namazi’s matter. With Namazi’s issues almost done, the Commission was led to the Zone’s Lands strong room. The strong room holds tens of thousands of land titles from Kyadondo and Busiro area stored on shelves. Mukaga told the Commission that the Zone needs a bigger strong room since the current one has no room left because of the numerous land title subdivisions.
He explained that the many real estate dealers and land brokers are partly to blame for the space issues since they rank high in applying to subdivide land titles. From the strong room, the Commission visited other officers on duty, who, now the found more prepared. Bamugemeriere directed the officers to furnish her Commission with a number of documents.
The Commission returned to Wakiso court at a quarter to 1:00pm to address some of the district officials including the chief administrative officer, Luke Lokuda.
Lokuda told the Commission that Wakiso with about two million people is urbanizing so fast in all its four municipalities. He said over 70 percent of land transactions in Uganda are in Wakiso district.
Lokuda said land in Wakiso is mostly owned by Buganda kingdom, adding that most of the local governments there don’t even own the land they seat on. Bamugemereire explained that their decision to seat in Wakiso district and the impromptu visit to the Land office were meant to help the Commission feel the real issues on the ground.
Wakiso is home to eighty percent of the country’s wetlands. The district is one of those with serious conflicts between landlords and their tenants. Almost every judicial officer at Wakiso has over two hundred land cases before them.
Information from court indicates that the land cases at the district outweigh criminal cases. The worst bit of it is that the rate of land disputes tends to inform the type of crimes that happen in Wakiso.
As Lt Col Nakalema raided the area, the Presidential Spokesman Don Wanyama spoke to media. He said the complaints were overwhelming .
As Wakiso District is a major settlement area, it is dogged by land fraud cases with some district and the ministry of lands zonal officials being implicated.
All entrances and exits have been sealed off by the Special Forces Command (SFC) soldiers, regular army and police.
Although lands offices are located at block D which forms part of the district complex of four blocks, there was no one being allowed into other offices.